Mineola, NY - October 8, 2015 - Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a 32-year old woman has been indicted and arrested for coercing two women into performing sex acts on customers in Nassau County massage parlors that she managed.
Li Fei Leng, 32, of Flushing, Queens, was arrested by DA investigators this morning and arraigned on the following grand jury indictment charges:
• Five counts of Sex Trafficking (a B felony)
• Two counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree (a C Felony)
• Labor Trafficking (a D felony)
• Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree (a D Felony)
• Unauthorized Practice under NYS Education Law (an E felony)
Acting Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy set bail at $250,000 bond or $125,000 cash. Leng is due back in court on October 22. She faces a maximum sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.
Two codefendants, husband and wife Zhaowei Yin and Shuwen Ai, of Flushing, were arrested by DA investigators and arraigned on September 24 on the same indictment charges. Nassau County Court of Claims Judge Philip Grella set bail in their case at $250,000 cash or bond. Yin and Ai are due back in court on Oct. 15.
“Victims of sex trafficking experience the horrors of modern-day slavery and the criminals who profit from oppression must face harsh penalties,” Acting DA Singas said. “My office is working with our partners in law enforcement to identify and arrest suspected traffickers here in Nassau County and we will use every tool in our kit to hold traffickers accountable, and to give their victims the support and assistance they need.”
Acting DA Singas said that between May 2013 and the end of January 2014, the defendants allegedly hired two women responding to ads in Chinese-language newspapers under the guise that they would be expected to perform massages. The victims, however, were required to perform sexual services on male customers at two locations: Lucy’s Spa at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square. Both locations are now closed.
Investigators found that the women were often forced to sleep at the businesses. The defendants never paid one victim for the time that she worked at the massage parlor and deducted wages from the other victim for occasional transportation home after work and for sleeping at the location, even when she was forced to stay there. The defendants threatened one of the victims that if she failed to comply with their demands, they would post a naked photograph of her on the Internet and in newspapers. The defendants also threatened the undocumented victim that if she reported them to the police, she would be deported. When one of the victims was subjected to physical violence at the hands of a male customer, the defendants forced her to continue to perform the services the customer requested.
Both victims had been arrested and charged during undercover operations by the Nassau County Police Department, and their cases were accordingly handled in the Human Trafficking Intervention Part of Nassau County District Court. During further investigation by investigators and prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with members of the Nassau County Police Department Narcotics Vice Squad, it was discovered that the women had been coerced to perform sexual acts and had become the victims of sex and labor trafficking. The charges against the victims were subsequently dismissed, and a wider investigation into their alleged traffickers was launched.
The joint investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the Nassau County Police Department is ongoing.
The Nassau County Human Trafficking Intervention Part was opened in October 2012 as one of three such pilot courts in New York State, in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office and as part of the statewide Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative proposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. The purpose of these court parts is to identify defendants who are charged with prostitution and related offenses as a result of being trafficked, and provide linkages to support services. Those who engage in these services may receive non-criminal dispositions or dismissal of their cases, in an effort by the criminal justice system to recognize these individuals as victims of sex and labor trafficking and end further victimization of this vulnerable population. In Nassau County, the District Attorney’s Office has taken this initiative one step further, and committed to aggressively investigate and prosecute any allegations of human trafficking that came to light as a result of any case that was handled in this part. Today’s arrests are a direct result of that commitment.
The District Attorney’s Office partners with The Safe Center LI, RESTORE NYC, and other service providers to offer programs that combine comprehensive assessments and a variety of supportive services, such as individual and group counseling, shelter and housing assistance, immigration services, medical referrals, and education assistance. To date, Nassau County’s Human Trafficking Intervention Part has handled more than 660 cases, and more than 260 individuals have availed themselves of the opportunities offered by these service providers.
Christine Guida of Acting DA Singas’ Special Victims Bureau is prosecuting the three cases. Leng is represented by Ming Li Chen, Esq. Yin is represented by John Healy, Esq. and Ai is represented by Christopher Graziano, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.